Sunday, October 12, 2014

Joseph Kimball - a rebel, carpenter, sailor and merchant

Family lineage: 1 Joseph Kimball, 2 Peter Kimbrall, 3 Peter Kimbrell, Jr.,  
 4 Buchner Mansfield Kimbrell,5 Mary Polly Kimbrell, 6 Thomas L. Johnson, 7 Lula Jane Johnson, 
 8 Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr., 9 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr.
1662 – 1711

As I began to research Joseph's story, I thought it might be  “somewhat interesting”; but it soon became more than "somewhat"!  Granted, there was very little official documentation of the story, and sometimes it was downright confusing.  But after sorting through stories told over the years, I am confident that he deserves to take his place among our family legends.  

He was born in Massachusetts, the fifth child of Thomas and Mary Kimball, who had migrated from England in the mid-1600s. If you read my earlier post about his father's murder by Indians and the kidnapping of his mother, and 5 of their children, including 14 year old Joseph, you might think that he would have wanted a placid life from then on. Not so!

Even a year after the tragedy, the family's scars still ran deep, and nothing was as it had been. Whether the same decisions would have been made if his father had lived, the fact is that 15 year old Joseph, with his mother's consent, moved into his Uncle Benjamin Kimball's home and bound himself to work as a carpenter's apprentice for three years.  

It is likely that the Kimball family members were all Puritan in those early days.  But as Joseph got older, that lifestyle seemed too restrictive and there were too many bad memories of his father's death and their time in captivity.  So, at age 17, he began to make plans to see the world.  The problem was that he was restricted by Puritan law which forbade single men from living alone. Joseph solved that by joining the crew of a southbound ship sailing to Barbados in the West Indies. 

He might not have known that the British Royal Navy had begun to forcibly stop American ships on the high seas in order to fill their crews with “eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 45 years old”. This practice, called "impressment", continued for many years, and was one of the hot issues contributing to the War of 1812.  Joseph certainly fit the description of a perfect crewman and twice became a victim of “impressment” - the first time for 2 weeks and then for six months. 

Finally, in 1684, after 5 years at sea, Joseph again took control of his life. It is generally believed that he jumped off his Massachusetts-bound ship as it sailed along the coast of Virginia and made his way along the coast of Virginia until he reached Surry County with nothing but his clothes and name, but somehow managed to find enough money to build a small trading post.

Joseph made a meager living running his little trading post. That may have been the reason why he married the first time fairly late in life.  But he was able to use what he had learned from the Skelkyl Indians back home in Massachusetts and it is believed that he taught his sons the ways of the Native Americans. While there is no proof to this, two of his sons became "Indian guides", and supposedly one of them married an Indian woman.

He was married twice and his children were all born between 1695 and 1710.  When naming them, Joseph managed to intermix his Puritan upbringing with Virginia traditions. One of those Puritan traditions was to simply open the Bible and choose a  name or word found on that page for the child. Occasionally they based the name on characteristics they hoped a son would have when he became a man, such as "Peter" (strong as a rock) or "David"  (very brave).  However, he also followed a Virginia tradition of naming some of the children after a member of the family or the Royalty of Europe.

What happened to his second wife is a mystery. She was not mentioned in Joseph's estate when he died in 1711 at age 49 for an unknown reason, but that is possibly because when he died, his estate totaled only 10 English Pounds. The Executor of his estate was Joseph's largest creditor in Virginia and obviously didn't take his responsibility to the estate very seriously. He missed court appearances at least six times and finally presented the final settlement in 1713 - two years after Joseph died.

For more information about this very interesting family, refer to "History of the Kimball Family in America between 1634 & 1897